Saturday 9 February 2019

Contributor news: Allen Ashley seeking submissions for The Once and Future Moon

Allen Ashley is editing a new anthology for Eibonvale Press, The Once and Future Moon, and it is open for submissions on that theme till 30 April 2019. Pay: £10 per story. Length: 1000-5000 words.

Here's what he has said about the project:

"This will be an anthology of stories set on/dealing with the abiding influence of the Moon.

You can take a literal or non-literal approach.

The 'Once' aspect will deal with how older cultures/earlier civilisations/ people in history saw the Moon, considered and reflected upon the Moon. Think Verne, Wells, Godwin. Think mythology. Think the Sumerians. Think the Ancient Greeks. Think beliefs held by vanished cultures. These stories do not have to be factually, scientifically accurate; the Moon element could be seen as poetic, figurative, imaginative, etc. These stories will likely form one-third of the book. Possibly half.

For 'Future', I am looking at both the liveable near-future (e.g. up to 50 years’ time)and slightly further ahead as well. I want stories grounded in how we will live on/adapt to/use the Moon in the near and further future. What issues might we face – some of which have yet to be even thought of by NASA?

I will also look at stories about how the Moon will affect our lives going forward. Will it be the site of the next war? Will it be the focal point of a conflict between science and religious forces (consider how the Moon is central to many religious practices)? What happens if the Moon starts to move closer to us or to move further away? What if the Moon was badly damaged or destroyed? What if the Moon acquired a companion?"

More information here:

Sunday 3 February 2019

Glass | review by Douglas J. Ogurek

McAvoy steals the show in trilogy finale that takes message too far.

The unconventional superhero film Glass, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, unites in a Philadelphia mental institution three characters from his previous films: good guy David Dunn/the Overseer (Bruce Willis) from Unbreakable (2000), bad guy Elijah Price/Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) also from Unbreakable, and ambiguous guy Kevin Wendell Crumb (along with his many personalities) (James McAvoy) from Split (2017). Psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) wants to convince them that they’re all suffering from delusions of grandeur. They are not superheroes, she argues, but rather ordinary people who’ve unconsciously manipulated their perceptions of reality to convince themselves of having superhuman capabilities.

Supergenius mass murderer Mr. Glass, so called for the brittleness of his bones, is wheelchair-bound and near catatonic due to the drugs in his system. David, quiet and stoic, merely wants to get out (while avoiding his weakness of water) so he can continue his brand of vigilante justice. The true standout is Kevin—each time the lighting system in his room flashes, a new member of “the horde” (his collection of personalities) emerges. McAvoy shows his versatility in Kevin’s rapid shifts in voice, facial expression, and body language as he flips between nine-year-old Hedwig, prim and proper Ms. Patricia, an impassioned intellectual, and many others. Meanwhile, David wants to keep at bay and Glass wants to bring out Kevin’s most destructive personality: the Beast, who seeks to devour those who are impure and have not suffered.

Another character in this story is the Osaka Tower, a fictional Philadelphia skyscraper—now the world’s tallest—that the film repeatedly references. The tower, with its sustainable advancements and intriguing shape, symbolizes mankind’s ability to create engineering wonders. Perhaps that is a kind of superheroic feat.

As with his previous films, Shyamalan interjects metatextual statements regarding what’s happening in the film. In this case, it’s comic book storytelling techniques. Unfortunately, when Mr. Glass’s mother starts doing so, it seems completely out of character.

The film’s biggest fault is that it gets so caught up in delivering its message about human potential that the story goes on for too long. What could have been a profound statement about the societal obsession with superheroes morphs into a Hollywoodesque rainbows and butterflies ending.

There is much to like in Glass: twists, conflict, distinctive music, compelling backstory, and less ostentatious superhero outfits. Nevertheless, if a film like Glass hits the viewer over the head too hard with its message, its creator’s vision might end up shattered.–Douglas J. Ogurek ****

Saturday 2 February 2019

The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold by Peter Brett | review by Stephen Theaker

Thousands of years ago humanity was almost wiped out by the nightly attacks of coreling demons, and saved at the last by the discovery of wards which turned the magical power of the demons back upon themselves. The monsters crept back to the centre of the planet, to regroup, recuperate and procreate while humans slowly forgot about them. Eventually many thought the demons nothing but pub tales, so their Return (it is always capitalised) three centuries ago came as an unwelcome surprise.

This book (Tachyon Publications pb, 192pp, $14.95) collects two novellas about Arlen, previously published by Subterranean Press as collectible hardcovers. He is in these stories a young man with a passionate interest in rediscovering the lost wards, not least because he is pursued by a four and a half metre tall rock monster he once managed to injure – accidentally knocking off its arm – which rises up each night and makes a beeline for his current location. A darned inconvenience, but of course he’s clever enough to use it to his advantage at times.

Arlen has studied the books in the Library, and gleaned what knowledge he could, but it’s fragmentary and he needs more. Working as a Messenger, he travels between the Free Cities, taking notes and making sketches of the demons, always on the lookout for new information, and for chances to test in practice what he already knows, or thinks he knows. Given time to prepare, Messengers can prepare a safe place to sleep in the open, surrounded by wards against which the coreling demons smash throughout the night, but that’s no way to live!

“Brayan’s Gold” takes place 324 years after the Return. Arlen, still an apprentice at this stage, and Curk, an older colleague, have taken on a challenging job, to transport a load of thundersticks – what we would call dynamite – to the most remote mining town in the duchy. It’s ten nights’ travel into the height of the mountains, but the reward is fifteen hundred gold suns, an absolute fortune.

As each night falls, mist seeps “from invisible pores in the ground, reeking and foul, slowly coalescing into harsh demonic form”, demons made of wind, rock and wood. The monsters aren’t Arlen’s only problem. There are bandits and betrayal on the route, he can’t rely on drunken Curk, and he is entreated to help two sundered lovers reunite. To top it all will be an encounter with a snow demon that catches him out on the mountain, unprepared and unprotected.

“The Great Bazaar” is set four years later, between chapters sixteen and seventeen of The Warded Man (The Painted Man for UK readers). Arlen can now travel freely on his own, and is on the outskirts of the Krasian Desert. The merchant Abban has him searching for Baha kad’Everam, a hamlet long abandoned to clay and wind demons, which “drop like silent stones from a mile in the sky, snapping their wings open at the last instant to sever a man’s head, snatch him in their hind talons, and take back off without ever touching ground”.

Arlen is after the precious pottery that might with luck still be there unbroken: one pot from a master’s wheel would make his trip. If he makes it back to Abban in Fort Krasia, there will be more trouble, but also the chance to learn the location of Anoch Sun, the lost city, ancient home of Kaji the Deliverer, who conquered the known world and united humanity in its first great war against the demons. A few scraps of defensive magic have kept humanity hanging on, but Anoch Sun might hold the secret of combat wards, for creating magical demon-killing weapons.

Brett’s books are endorsed by Paul W.S. Anderson (“Inspired, compelling and totally addictive!”), which is a recommendation to me if no one else, and like Anderson’s always enjoyable films these novellas reminded me a bit of video games. Pulling a trailer of explosives up a bumpy road, fighting demons in ruins among smashed urns, questing for ancient manuscripts; these are pleasantly familiar scenarios to gamers. The novellas also share with his films an uncomplicated and earnest desire to entertain. I think they succeed.

In an introduction Brett says that he hopes these short adventure stories will offer newcomers a convenient introduction to the Demon Cycle series and its characters, while giving existing fans a broader look at his world and a fix between full-length novels. I can’t speak to the latter, but for newcomers they are perfect; including a dictionary and ward grimoire helps with that. No book in my collection is fatter than The Daylight War, third in the Demon Cycle, and that had put me off reading it. Now it looks like a feast. ****

This review originally appeared in Interzone #259.